The Delhi High Court on Wednesday ruled that there could be no curb on the number of licences issued to cycle-rickshaw pullers as it would be against their right to earn livelihood and also hamper the invaluable linkage provided by rickshaws.
The Bench headed by Chief Justice A P Shah and comprising Justices S Ravindra Bhat and S Muralidhar also took exception to the by-law authorising the police,the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) and other agencies to impound rickshaws. It directed the agencies to do away with any authorisation that was against the law.
But the court refrained from quashing zonal restrictions or the ban on use of rickshaws on arterial roads. The Bench held that the civic bodies have the right to take such decisions in greater public interest.
Expressing concern over the manner in which civic authorities and the police treat cycle-rickshaw pullers,the court said,It would be important for public authorities,particularly law enforcement agencies,to display sensitivity when exercising coercive powers.
The Bench also differed from an earlier High Court verdict which held that plying rickshaws hurt or offended human dignity,and that the state should eventually eliminate the trade. The Bench said,The right of an individual to ply cycle-rickshaw or other forms of transport falls within the legitimate exercise of his freedom guaranteed under Article 19(1) (g).
The court found no objective criteria that the MCD relied on to fix the limit of rickshaw licences at 99,000. It noted that no such policy was framed to limit the number of motorised vehicles.
The linkage provided by non-motorised transport such as cycle-rickshaws is invaluable, the court held.
The Bench pointed out that the agencies had,in a way,singled out cycle-rickshaws,though there are over 60 lakh motor vehicles,including 32 lakh cars,on Delhis roads. The respondents have to consider all options,including imposing stringent restrictions on use and movement of private cars,in certain congested areas and also limit their use, it said. The Bench referred to similar policies in London,and some other cities abroad,where stiff congestion fee is levied on private vehicles entering some areas as a deterrent.
The court also quashed the by-law empowering the police to confiscate and destroy rickshaws without valid licences. There is no power in the MCD,much less the Delhi Police,to seize and either sell in auction or destroy a rickshaw even where it is found to be driven without a licence,or by a person not having a proper licence, the court held.
We are not unmindful of the manner in which these wide powers were being exercised,with cycle-rickshaws being easy targets for… a traffic policeman. It is hoped that the Delhi Police will instruct its personnel to treat rickshaw-pullers with sensitivity.
The courts directives came on PILs filed by two groups Manushi Sangthan,and Initiative for Transportation and Development Programmes seeking courts intervention in MCD policies taking away the rights of rickshaw-pullers in an arbitrary manner.
HC: make special task force to smoothen traffic
The High Court pressed the need for an overall agency to look after traffic situation in the city. The court said the Delhi government,MCD,DDA and the Delhi Police shall constitute a special task force to explore all questions pertaining to traffic. The objective,the Bench said while hearing the PIL on cycle-rickshaws,is to minimise congestion,reduce pollution levels of motor vehicles,and ensure equitable access to all classes of vehicles,including non-motorised transport such as bicycles and cycle-rickshaws.
What Court Says
* Sensitivity required on part of civic body,police officials
* If not on cars and other vehicles,why a cap on the number of licences for rickshaws?
* No objective criteria in MCDs rule fixing number of licences at 99,000
* Police and civic officials have no right to impound rickshaws
* Constitution gives right to ply cycle-rickshaw or other forms of transport to earn livelihood
* Restriction or ban on use of rickshaws on arterial roads stays
Rickshaws: Earlier orders
JULY 27,2006: High Court prohibits cycle-rickshaws from all arterial roads in Delhi; says these roads are meant for heavy vehicular traffic,cars and two-wheelers
* Says rickshaws congesting arterial roads
OCTOBER 2006: High Court issues directs MCD to implement ban on rickshaws. Also bars issuing of new licences to rickshaws calls for review of policy allowing licences for a rickshaw owner,as opposed to a rickshaw puller
* Also objects to plying of rickshaws in Capital on grounds that rickshaw-pulling is against human dignity and results in exploitation by influential mafia
* Directs all arterial roads in MCD area be strictly prohibited for rickshaws; orders MCD to take strict legal action against violators